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The Premier League’s Champions League race promises to be thrilling



Although Liverpool have been crowned Premier League champions, there is still plenty to play for in the coming weeks with the race for the top four as wide open as it has been for years.

With seven rounds of fixtures left to play this season, Leicester, Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves, Tottenham and Sheffield United are all in with a chance of qualifying for the Champions League.

Here, Sportsmail assesses how each contender has done so far on their return to top-flight action and maps out their remaining fixtures. 

There is a six-way fight for the two remaining Champions League places in the Premier League

LEICESTER’S REMAINING MATCHES

July 1 – Everton (A)

July 4 – Crystal Palace (H)

July 7 – Arsenal (A)

July 12 – Bournemouth (A)

July 15 – Sheffield United (H) 

July 18 – Tottenham (A)

July 26 – Manchester United (H) 

 

Leicester – 3rd, 55 points 

Many thought Brendan Rodgers’ side had already done enough to book their place at Europe’s top table again next season.

The Foxes have not been in the Champions League since 2016-17 and looked likely to end that three-year wait in the coming weeks after an impressive first full season in charge for Rodgers.

But the wheels have come off since the Premier League restarted with Leicester taking just two points from a possible six in games against relegation-threatened sides Watford and Brighton.

The usually potent Jamie Vardy has not looked his usual threatening self, while the creativity of James Maddison has been stifled in midfield.

A look at their remaining fixtures also causes a grimace. They have tricky away games at Everton and Arsenal in their next three before concluding the campaign with three decisive fixtures.

They welcome Sheffield United, potentially a top-four rival, to King Power Stadium, then travel to Tottenham and host Manchester United on the final day of the season. 

Rodgers will want his team to be far, far away in the distance before welcoming Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side at the end of July.  

Back-to-back draws since the restart has allowed teams to catch up ground on Leicester

CHELSEA’S REMAINING MATCHES

July 1 – West Ham (A)

July 4 – Watford (H)

July 7 – Crystal Palace (A)

July 11 – Sheffield United (A)

July 15 – Norwich (H) 

July 18 – Liverpool (A)

July 26 – Wolves (H) 

 

Chelsea – 4th, 54 points

The victory over Manchester City was a reminder of just how well Frank Lampard has done in his first season as Chelsea manager.

With a transfer ban hanging over the club, Lampard has managed to introduce several young players into his squad and made them competitive at the same time.

A quick-fire double at Villa Park helped them beat John Terry and Co as well to give them two wins from two since we got back up and running.

That has put Chelsea five points clear of fifth-placed United and only one point behind Leicester in third, dragging the Foxes back towards the chasing pack.

Chelsea’s fixtures are also particularly appealing. Their toughest test is a trip to Anfield on the penultimate weekend of the season but there’s a good chance Klopp’s team will be on the beach by then.

Games against West Ham, Watford, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Norwich present a realistic chance of taking maximum points in their next five games while a win at Anfield would cap a fantastic season for Lampard.

Wolves at Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season could be more important for the visitors as you feel the Blues will have a place wrapped up by then.  

Chelsea seriously boosted their top-four hopes with a win over Manchester City on Thursday

UNITED’S REMAINING MATCHES

June 30 – Brighton (A)

July 4 – Bournemouth (H)

July 9 – Aston Villa (A)

July 13 – Southampton (H)

July 15 – Crystal Palace (A)

July 18 – West Ham (H)

July 26 – Leicester (A) 

 

Manchester United – 5th, 49 points

Manchester United’s form since back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Burnley in January has been impressive. 

Seven games, four wins, three draws and zero losses have turned them into a genuine threat to the top four. They have beaten and kept clean sheets against both Manchester City and Chelsea since then, too.

Bruno Fernandes has had a large role in that with his January arrival providing some much needed quality and attacking threat to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.

The improvement of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial on the break gives them a genuine attacking outlet, while a steady back four has given them consistency.

Paul Pogba is also fit and available for selection again and, as shown against Sheffield United this week, he can form a deadly axis with Fernandes if given the chance. 

Their upcoming schedule will also give cause for optimism. They have just two matches against teams in the top half of the table, Crystal Palace and Leicester, with home games against struggling Bournemouth and West Ham as well.  

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United side are impressing and in good form ahead of the run-in

WOLVES’ REMAINING MATCHES

June 27 – Aston Villa (A)

July 4 – Arsenal (H)

July 8 – Sheffield United (A)

July 12 – Everton (H)

July 15 – Burnley (A) 

July 18 – Crystal Palace (H)

July 26 – Chelsea (A)

 

Wolves – 6th, 49 points  

If anyone needed a few months off it was Wolves. Their participation in the early rounds of the Europa League meant they had played an enormous quantity of matches.

But the coronavirus suspension gave them a chance to rest their heavy legs and tired minds and make a genuine challenge to break into the top four.

Two wins from two games at West Ham and home to Bournemouth have put them right in the mix with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side now just five points behind Chelsea.

Wolves have a proven Premier League goalscorer in Raul Jimenez, perfect creators in Adama Traore and Diogo Jota around him and a midfield packed with quality.

Add in a strong defence led by Conor Coady and capable manager and you have a good chance of a top-four finish. 

However, Wolves do have two of their Champions League rivals still to play in Sheffield United and Chelsea and those games will be crucial.

They also welcome Everton to Molineux and travel to Arsenal and Burnley, always tough places to go, so they really do have it all to do if they are to make a late dart for the top four.

Back-to-back wins for Wolves have put them right in Champions League contention

TOTTENHAM’S REMAINING MATCHES

July 2 – Sheffield United (A)

July 6 – Everton (H)

July 9 – Bournemouth (A)

July 12 – Arsenal (H)

July 15 – Newcastle (A) 

July 18 – Leicester (H)

July 26 – Crystal Palace (A) 

 

Tottenham – 7th, 45 points

Jose Mourinho’s side certainly have it all to do. They are currently nine points behind Chelsea so would need to be perfect themselves and hope someone massively slips up to have any chance.

But he had all six of his attacking options for the first time since he’s been at the club against West Ham and a victory in that game to go with a point against United has not been a bad return.

Harry Kane also found the back of the net again against the Hammers and you would be foolish to rule out a team that has got that sort of goal-scoring prowess within it.

But defensively Spurs have struggled all season and it could be a lack of clean sheets in the coming weeks that undermines any progress Mourinho makes in the attacking third. 

Spurs have three tough home games against Everton, Leicester and Arsenal and Mikel Arteta will be desperate to end another shoddy season for the Gunners with victory in the north London derby.

Beating Leicester on the penultimate weekend of the season could maintain any slim hopes they have of getting into the top four but they will need to win away games at Sheffield United, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Crystal Palace to be in with a shout.  

Harry Kane is back among the goals and could help Spurs make a late dash for the top four

SHEFFIELD UNITED’S REMAINING MATCHES

July 2 – Tottenham (H)

July 5 – Burnley (A)

July 8 – Wolves (H)

July 11 – Chelsea (H)

July 15 – Leicester (A) 

July 18 – Everton (H)

July 26 – Southampton (A) 

 

Sheffield United – 8th, 44 points

Let’s be honest. There was very little chance the Blades would finish in the top four. 

Their return to the Premier League has undoubtedly been impressive but qualifying for the Champions League has proven to be a step too far for Chris Wilder’s squad. 

Two defeats and a goalless draw at Aston Villa since the restart has been a dagger to the heart of any slim chances they had. You can’t afford to drop eight points at this time of the season.

But the Blades do have an ideal chance to arrest the slump and boost their fading Europa League hopes in the coming weeks with several matches against teams in and around them in the table.

Either side of a trip to Burnley they have home games against Tottenham and Wolves, two teams both in the hunt for European football. They also face Chelsea and Leicester before the season is over so could be heavily involved in the race for the top four.

Games against Everton and Southampton will bring a fantastic Premier League return to an end for Wilder’s squad and they can take stock and look to challenge for Europe again next season.       

Two defeats and a draw since the restart have damaged Sheffield United’s European hopes

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